By Eric Ravenscraft
If you’ve ever felt like it’s hard to aim in a
first-person shooter or that your cursor can’t seem to find the right cell in
Excel on the first try, you’ve probably run into a DPI problem. This setting on
your mouse determines how sensitive your cursor is and, if you set it right, it
can improve not just your gaming but your productivity as well.
DPI stands for “dots per inch” and measures how
many steps your mouse reports to the computer per inch that you move your
mouse. For instance, if you have your mouse sensitivity set to 200 DPI and move
your mouse one inch, it will only move a little bit. Set the same mouse to 1200
DPI, and it will go much further with the same movement. (You might also see
this referred to as CPI or “counts per inch” depending on the manufacturer.)
Every mouse has a limit on its maximum DPI
sensitivity, but you can adjust your DPI using software or even with a physical
button, known as an on-the-fly button, on some mice. If you are unsure whether
your mouse has an on-the-fly button or are having difficulty locating it, check
its product manual or manufacturer’s website. Having the ability to toggle
between settings quickly can help in some contexts where you might want much
higher sensitivity, but not as much in others.
The DPI settings you prefer will be highly
subjective and depend on what you’re doing. For example, FPS players often use
a low sensitivity to make it easier to aim. It’s harder to squeeze in a
headshot when your sights fly across the screen with every breath. However, if
you need to whip around and see directly behind you, a higher DPI might be more
Many games, like Overwatch, for
example, allow you to set per-character DPI settings because what works
for a sniper might not work as well for a tank. For games or apps that don’t
provide this built-in, the software that comes with your mouse—such as Logitech’s G Hub or Razer’s Synapse software—will let you automatically switch DPI per app or
manually switch with a shortcut or button.
G Hub software lets you choose multiple DPI settings and cycle between them
with the press of a button.
Depending on your needs, it’s important to
experiment with what feels comfortable for you. For most games and applications,
a 400-800 DPI is a good baseline to start with. However, you might find you prefer
something higher. For example, I use two monitors on my work desktop. Therefore,
I prefer a baseline 1200 DPI even for regular office work, simply because it
makes it easier to move from one monitor to the other in a single motion.
For games, it’s often a good idea to hop into a
practice round or offline game and play around with controls to see what
sensitivity feels best for you. In a first person game, try to set a
sensitivity that allows you to accurately spin 180 degrees to face behind you
without overshooting. You can also experiment with multiple DPI settings and
cycle between them if your mouse has a dedicated DPI button.
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